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📝 Theo Foley: 1937-2020

26 June 2020

Exeter City Football Club and Exeter City Supporters' Trust were saddened to hear today that Theo Foley has passed away at the age of 83.

Born in Dublin in 1937, Theo’s childhood home provided him with a direct view of St. Pats’ Football Club, and the beginnings of a life long love affair with the beautiful game.

Writing in his 2018 autobiography, Theo give us a ball he wrote that “times were tough with money and jobs scarce. As long as we had a football and a place to play though, we were happy on the streets of Dublin.”

Theo’s career in the game took him from those streets all the way to the top of the game, as an international footballer for his beloved Republic of Ireland, and as the well-respected and popular coach of an Arsenal side who won the First Division title in dramatic fashion at Anfield in 1989.

Along this impressive journey, Theo’s first stop in professional football was St James Park, where the young Dubliner arrived at the age of 17 in 1955, and went on to make his senior debut in a 1-1 draw with Norwich City later that year.

From the 1957/58 season onwards, Theo was a regular in the first team featuring alongside players such as Graham Rees, Gordon Dale, Nelson Stiffle, and his great friend Arnold Mitchell, all of whom played in one of the most exciting City sides of all-time, as the club narrowly missed out on promotion in 1959.

After making more than 150 appearances for the Grecians, Theo moved to Northampton Town in 1961, where he enjoyed the most successful period of his playing career, captaining The Cobblers as they made their way from the old Fourth Division to the top flight of English football.

Throughout this time, he played against some of the most famous names in the game, including Bobby Moore, George Best, and Franz Beckenbauer - to name just a few – during a spell that he said he “wouldn’t have changed for the world.”

Indeed few have had, or are likely have, the kind of career and life in the game as Theo Foley. As a player, coach, assistant manager, manager, scout, and even as a colleague in the media to a young Jeff Stelling at LBC, Theo earned a quietly impressive reputation, which was fuelled by his character, work-ethic, and ingrained love of the game.

Whether kicking a ball about on the streets of Dublin, or being involved at the pinnacle of the sport, Theo Foley was a football man through and through, as illustrated by a quote in later life where he said that he would still “watch a kick about in the back garden with as much enthusiasm as the World Cup.”

We are certain that Theo would have relished Monday’s Wembley encounter with Northampton Town, and so both he, his family and his friends are very much in our thoughts, as two of his former clubs look forward to what now seems to be an even more fitting playoff-final.


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